Will Poznan climate conference save the Earth? (Comment)

December 6th, 2008 - 9:38 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Dec 6 (RIA Novosti) The UN conference on climate change has been in session in Poznan, Poland, where delegates from 192 countries will prepare the draft of a document intended to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol on reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG).The 1997 protocol, known as Kyoto-One, must be replaced with Kyoto-Two in Copenhagen in December 2009. Time must be left for its ratification before it enters into force Jan 1, 2013, as its predecessor expires Dec 31, 2012.

The Kyoto protocol is an agreement committing its signatories to reduce the release of industry-produced GHG emissions. Its 161 participants pledged to cut back by 2012 their collective GHG emission by 5.2 percent of the 1990 emission level.

The official title of the Poznan conference is the 14th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is the fourth conference of the signatories to the Kyoto protocol.

A breakthrough in Poznan is not expected. It would be good if the conference encouraged us to take better care of the world climate.

The United States is the worst violator of the protocol. It accounts for about 35 percent of harmful emissions. Having signed the protocol, it refused to ratify it. Without its participation, the protocol does not make much sense.

Moscow ratified the protocol in 2004, but behaved in a typically Russian way. It announced numerous projects to promote the protocol. Much was said about the need to invest in the development of eco-friendly technologies and to set up a market to trade GHG emission quotas.

The country ended up with doing little. The Russians, in the absence of a national registry to measure GHG emissions, do not even know the extent of damage their industries are doing to the air.

Americans have forewarned that they expect the conference to display realism and profound understanding of the problem. This sounds as if they are ready to reject any decisions the conference might make.

When they joined the Kyoto protocol, India and China did not foul the air as mercilessly as they are now doing, and no restrictions were imposed on them. By some estimates, China has already caught up with the United States in the scale of GHG emissions, while India is pulling ahead of Germany, France, and Britain.

Many scientists insist on changing the quota system.

They suggest that quotas should be traded at centralized auctions to make more money and invest all of it into the development of alternative energy sources.

Blocking GHG emissions with the Kyoto protocol is like patching millions of holes in a hose. Both Poznan and Copenhagen can at best only provide interim solutions.

(Andrei Fedyashin writes on the environment. The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti, the Russian news agency.)

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